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24 Mar 2017

Nepal for China's Silk Road

TT, Kathmandu, March 23 (Reuters): Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda is set to support Beijing's initiative to build a modern-day Silk Road across Asia during a six-day trip to China starting today, a move that could upset India.
Beijing is jostling to increase its influence in Nepal. China, which has invested in hospitals, roads, hydropower projects and airports in Nepal, is keen to include it in President Xi Jinping's flagship "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) initiative to link Asia with Europe, West Asia and Africa.
Prachanda, a former Maoist commander, will discuss energy, investment and the OBOR plan with the Chinese leader, foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat said. "We express our commitment to join the OBOR initiative," Rishi Adhikari, an aide to Prachanda, said. Prachanda is on his first visit to China since his election in August.
India, which has a festering border dispute with China, has looked at the latter's ambitions in South Asia including Nepal with concern. India is still the landlocked Himalayan nation's biggest trading partner, donor and supplier of essential goods.
In October, Xi avoided Nepal during a South Asian tour amid Nepali media reports that Prachanda's government was growing closer to India. Kunda Dixit, editor of Nepali Times, said China had advised Nepali leaders not to try to play Beijing against New Delhi. "Prachanda will have to tread carefully not to ruffle feathers in Delhi and to make Beijing too anxious," Dixit said.
Chinese defence minister Chang Wanquan met Nepali counterpart Bal Krishna Khand today and said Beijing would continue to support the Nepal Army in disaster management.

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